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April 3, 2008

What's a webinar?

Last week we discussed how technology can be used to extend the reach of your event. Here we take a more in-depth look at some of the most popular technologies that are currently driving events, and how you can make the most of them.

The term webcast describes the delivery of live or delayed versions of video broadcasts over the internet. This can either be in the form of streaming media (where the media is sent in a continuous stream and is played as it arrives) or as a downloadable file.

Your event can be captured using conventional digital video cameras, with an external microphone to capture the sound to get the required quality. This is then transferred to computer and encoded for transfer via the internet and can either be broadcast live or stored on a computer and edited at a later stage. While the costs don’t have to be astronomical, they will vary significantly depending on how “professional” an end product you want to produce.

Having the option of either live or delayed webcasts gives you two potentially different new markets. A live stream can reach those not able to attend to catch the relevant parts of your event. Delayed content, on the other hand, allows you to repackage and rebrand the information into whatever format you like. Storing archives of all the material over the course of an event means no one has to miss anything.

You will need to consider how you allow people access to this. For example you could make it free to those who have already attended the event and work out a way to charge those that did not attend, but still want to view your archive.

A webinar (also know as an e-seminar) is basically a web-based seminar – a seminar that is transmitted exclusively over the internet. Webinars differ from webcasts in that they presuppose the ability to give, receive and discuss information, whether in the form of emailed in questions or video-conferencing. This is in contrast to the one-way stream of dialogue offered by webcasts.

Although webinars provide an interactive forum similar to a live presentation, but without the time and costs associated with travelling to the event, they remove the human face-to-face interaction that is such a strong part of events.

However, they can also offer the unique ability to get your message to delegates who might have failed to attend your event at the last minute due to an unscheduled meeting, illness or the general pressure of business. If you record your webinar as a Flash file (a type of video file) and put it on your website, you can send an email with a link to the file on your site to the appropriate individuals.

A podcast is an audio file which is posted on the internet and then downloaded by a user directly to their computer-based audio player (such as iTunes) and from there to a portable MP3 player, such as Apple's iPod, hence the name podcast.

Podcasts are distinguished from other forms of downloadable digital media by their ability to be downloaded automatically to your computer – although you can also download them manually. If you've ever used a news feed service, where news is downloaded to your computer whenever you log on, this works in much the same way. When you receive your podcast update from any site that you have subscribed to you'll get a file with a brief description of the podcasts and a link that enables you to download them to your computer.

Essentially, podcasting is about creating content (audio or video) for an audience that wants to listen or watch when they want, where they want and how they want. And with the plethora of hand-held and portable devices around (from mobile phones to personal entertainment devices like iPods or Sony PSP machines) your audience no longer has to be chained to their computer screen to catch up on what they’ve missed!

By offering podcast subscription you are also potentially opening up another revenue stream for an event. People may not want to attend the whole event, but by accessing your podcast they are able to pick and choose the most relevant features.

Over the next few weeks, EVENTS:review will be looking at how companies use these technologies to improve the impact of their events. If you have any relevant case studies and would like to have some input, we want to hear from you.

See our response box out below.

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